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April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
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Israel And ‘Palestine’: A Memo To Barack Obama

Mr. President, some foreign policies need to be carefully thought through a second time.

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Even as a nonstate legal entity, “Palestine” ceased to exist in 1948, when Great Britain relinquished its League of Nations mandate. During the 1948-49 Israeli War of Independence, West Bank and Gaza came under unauthorized control of Jordan and Egypt. Contrary to the conventional wisdom, these Arab conquests did not put an end to an already-existing state, or to an ongoing trust territory. What these Arab aggressions did manage to accomplish was the intentional prevention, by the Arab states, of a new Arab state of “Palestine.”

From the biblical Period (ca. 1350 BCE to 586 BCE) to the British Mandate (1922 – 1948), the land named vengefully by the Romans after the ancient Philistines was controlled only by non-Palestinian elements. However, a continuous chain of Jewish possession of the land was legally recognized after World War I. At the San Remo Peace Conference in April 1920, a binding treaty was signed in which Great Britain was given mandatory authority over “Palestine.” This authority was based on the expectation that Britain would prepare the area to become the “national home for the Jewish People.” Previously, since 1516, the Ottoman Turks had ruled the area cruelly, and as an undesirable provincial backwater.

(Continued Next Week)

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About the Author: Louis René Beres, strategic and military affairs columnist for The Jewish Press, is professor of Political Science at Purdue University. Educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971), he lectures and publishes widely on international relations and international law and is the author of ten major books in the field. In Israel, Professor Beres was chair of Project Daniel.


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3 Responses to “Israel And ‘Palestine’: A Memo To Barack Obama”

  1. We all want peace, and yet, after more than a century of conflict, the struggle between these two related nations remains more intractable than ever. Why?

    Because each side is entrenched in its own narrative, to the exclusion of the other’s.

    Its faults notwithstanding, one must admit that Israel has taken some steps since the Oslo Accords toward acknowledging the Palestinian suffering. These steps are reflected in school books, in the media, and through other informational outlets. The Arabs of the West Bank and Gaza, for instance, are now referred to as “Palestinians,” and most Israelis would like to see a Palestinian state emerge. The fact that Israeli voters don’t reflect these wishes has to do with fears of surface-to-air missiles two miles from Ben-Gurion International Airport, and scarred memories of blown-up buses and pizzerias.

    The Palestinians, unfortunately, have done little to allay Israeli fears. While Palestinians clamor for the removal of onerous checkpoints and barriers, militant attempts to penetrate these barriers and attack Israeli civilians have not ceased at all since the second Intifada. Similarly, school books and speeches, in Arabic, have grown radical, to the point of portraying Israel’s very existence as a crime. Little has been done to acknowledge the Jewish roots in Palestine.

    The fact is that the Jewish presence in Palestine goes much farther back than most Palestinians, as well as Arabs and Muslims in general, would be willing to admit.

    Before 1948, Palestine was ruled by a series of empires. Before that Palestine was Judaea—a Jewish country. Jews have lived in Palestine continuously for more than 3,300 years. "Palestine" was the name given to the Jewish homeland in the second century by the Romans, in an attempt to break the Jewish adherence to the land. This was a century after the Jewish temple was destroyed and more than a million Jews were massacred.

    The Jews stopped fighting the Romans only after they had no more fighting men standing. As Evangelist William Eugene Blackstone put it in 1891, “The Jews never gave up their title to Palestine… They never abandoned the land. They made no treaty, they did not even surrender. They simply succumbed, after the most desperate conflict, to the overwhelming power of the Romans.”.

    The Jews persisted through the centuries under the various empires, after the Arab invasion of 635AD (which they fought alongside the Byzantines), and after the Crusade massacres of the 11th Century, which decimated much of their population.

    Few Palestinians realize that Jewish customs, religion, prayers, poetry, holidays, and virtually every walk of life, documented for thousands of years—all revolve around Judaea/Palestine/Israel. For thousands of years Jews have been praying for Jerusalem in every prayer, after every meal, in every holiday, at every wedding, in every celebration. The whole Jewish religion is about Jerusalem and the Land of Israel. Western expressions such as “The Promised Land,” and “The Holy Land,” did not pop out of void. They have been part of Western knowledge and tradition dating back to the beginning of Christianity and earlier.

    After the Crusades, the Jews—including many who have returned over the centuries—lived peacefully with Arabs, often in the very same villages, as in Pki'in, in the Galilee, until the Zionist immigration of the 19th and 20th Centuries. Article 6 of the PLO Charter specifically calls for the acceptance of all Jews present in Palestine prior to the Zionist immigration. These Jews were simply another ethnic group in a region composed of Sunnis, Shiites, Jews, Druz, Greek Orthodox, Catholics, Circassians, Samarians, and more. Some of these groups, like the Druz, Circassians, Samarians, and an increasing number of Christians, are actually loyal to the Jewish State.

    Incidentally, genetic studies consistently show that Zionist immigrants (a.k.a., Ashkenazi Jews) are closely related to groups that predate the Arab conquest, like the Samarians, who have lived in Palestine for thousands of year.

    Palestinian denial of these facts may lead to events such as the ones brilliantly depicted in Jonathan Bloomfield’s award-winning book, “Palestine,” in which actual history and predicted events are thinly veiled as fiction.

    If, as the current Palestinian narrative goes, the Jews are not a people indigenous to Palestine but rather an invading foreign colonialist body, then they must be fought until they are removed from this land. Anything short of that, by any standard, would be injustice.

    Thus, war and bloodshed will continue until the Palestinians start acknowledging the Jewish narrative, and the fact that Jewish roots in Palestine date back thousands of years, long before the Arab invasion.

  2. This issue is very complicated.This is because there are two different voices about rights to the Holy Land.

    When the Oslo accords were first signed there was optimism that both sides could compromise and achieve reconciliation and good relations.

    That did not happen for a variety of reasons.

    Now neither side really accepts the basic premises on which Oslo was started.

    You cannot build a compromise on the new parameters of either side.

    That is why I believe the stats-quo is better than any major changes until a platform for true peace is viable.

  3. What Israel needs to be mindful of is Obama has never been an ally to Israel. As with so many other things, Obama is a great salesperson, he will tell you whatever he thinks you want to hear but deliver on nothing. But, Israel needs to stop shooting themselves in the foot by making foolish concessions that never work, or doing bazaar things, like inviting the Palastinians to a twenty five anniversary of Judea and Samaria. There will be no peace until the Arabs abandon their sixty four year old murder campaign and concessions like giving back land and pulling out of checkpoints have proven time and gain that not only do these actions fail to achieve peace, they increase violence and induce the possibility of war. Israel has to stop letting themselves to be treated like children by the United States and base their decisions not on what Obama or any other foreign entity wants, but what is best for Israel. Case in point, when Hillary Clinton visited Israel to tell Netanyahu to abandon the "pillar of defense" campaign, Netanyahu should have said that thousands of innocent Israeli citizens have been murdered at the hands of Hamas and the operation will continue until Hamas is rooted out and destroyed. By stopping the program, Hamas considered it a win for them and their defiance and aggression increased. But, when Israel's plan was being put into action, Hamas was reeling and losing in short order, I didn't hear the usual obnoxious remarks by Hamas and other Arabs. This is not being a " hardliner," it's merely bolstering Israel's security and safety so there could be a diminished security threats and the protection of Israel's rights.

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